England change tack with Bopara's home truths still fresh
As England's World Cup campaign came to its premature end, the team sat in the dressing room in Sydney and held what they term as "an honesty meeting".
After an initial - and by most accounts somewhat awkward - silence, one of the players started to talk. And while versions differ a little, the general consensus is that Ravi Bopara then delivered some home truths that cut to the heart of England's problems.
Despite all the brave talk of how aggressively England were going to play at the World Cup, Bopara said, they still played the same timid cricket that had failed in the past. And, if they were going to improve their record - they have a wretched World Cup history since reaching the final in 1992 - things had to change.
Bopara's words did not please all his colleagues. But there was a great deal of truth in them and they were largely echoed by Eoin Morgan on Monday as he looked ahead the Royal London ODI series against New Zealand.
"For a long time now, we've been behind the 8-ball in one-day cricket," Morgan said. "We've fallen behind by a long way and it's time for a catch-up.
"After the World Cup we've come back and said we need to change the way we play and the proof in that is the selections that we have made. We've selected guys who play a different brand of cricket and we don't want that to change once they put the England shirt on.
"The guys we have brought in do something different and we want that to continue. If they play as well as they have done in county cricket then it will be very exciting."
It was the senior players who disappointed most at the World Cup. Morgan struggled for runs, Ian Bell struggled to bat the tempo required and failed in the key games, while both James Anderson and Stuart Broad were unable to bowl the full length required to utilise the new ball. The last three, and Bopara, have all been dropped and may struggle to win a recall.
There may be a temptation to return to them in time, though. The next two global ODI tournaments (the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup) are both to be staged in relatively early season in England when a case could be made to select batsmen with a tight defensive technique and bowlers with experience. And, with such an aggressive batting line-up, there will surely be times when this young England side come unstuck.
But Morgan, who will have a voice in the selection of both limited-overs squads while he remains as captain, is adamant that this squad is more than a reaction to the World Cup debacle and instead represents a brave new era.
"It's very important to recognise that it won't come off all the time," Morgan said. "But the intention of playing in the right manner is key and has to be key for a long period of time. Otherwise, if you ditch it after a few games, it won't work."
In the new-look side, there will be more opportunity given to the likes of Ben Stokes, who is expected to bat at No. 4, and Jos Buttler, anticipated at No. 6, which could well mean no place for James Taylor.
Morgan, who has scored only 491 runs in his last 29 ODIs (including nearly 25% of them in one innings) at an average of just 18.88, needs a decent series, or Taylor could be pushing for his place in the side and as captain.
Jason Roy and Alex Hales will open the batting, which could threaten the long-term position of Moeen Ali, who was omitted from the squad to gain some red ball bowling time ahead of the Ashes, with Joe Root expected to bat at No. 3. Buttler remains vice-captain.
Morgan insists that he feels "a lot more comfortable" with the bat than he did during the World Cup and credits his spell at the IPL for the improvement. That led him to suggest, not for the first time, that English domestic competitions had to be improved if more young players were going to graduate to the international teams prepared for the standard of cricket.
"For some reason I always go to the IPL and come back a better player," he said. "That has been the case this year. I feel a lot more comfortable with where I'm at.
"In the ideal world we would have our own world-renowned domestic tournament that everybody wants to play in and you would see our younger guys flourish in what would be a very high standard of cricket. They would be put under pressure the majority of times they go out to bat, bowl or field. And that's what we want."
We have heard much of this before, of course. But this time, as the ECB look at rescheduling the domestic season, it looks almost inevitable that the County Championship will be reduced to 12 games each per county with more emphasis given on limited-overs formats. Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, favours 10 games
But Morgan, at least, feels that, in partnership with Trevor Bayliss and Strauss, there is a common accord which can bring an improvement in England's one-day performances.
"Speaking with Strauss, he feels there is to be a difference between Tests and one dayers and a bigger priority on white ball cricket," Morgan said. "That is the change that made me think, 'hold on, we are actually going to make some progress here.' I think there are plans being put in place to prioritise tournaments in the future instead of making overloading with Tests the priority.
"Trevor's strategy revolves around having athletes in your side - gun fielders - and then a couple of specifics: guys being able to turn the ball both ways and having your quicks looking constantly to take wickets and being aggressive with the bat. My experience with him has been brilliant.
"We're all on the same page as over the direction that we want to take this team and the brand of cricket we want to play. It might still take a bit of time but I'll certainly be involved in selection, so I've got the squad I wanted."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo